Injuries from falling can have serious long-term consequences especially among older people.

That conversation came to the forefront when former U.S. president Jimmy Carter was recently hospitalized after falling.

Chances are you or someone you know has had an older family member experience a fall.

According to Wetumpka-based physical therapist Anthony Hall, he and the staff at Rehab Associates prefer to see people experiencing balance issues before a fall and injury occurs.

“The biggest thing that happens as people retire, they get weaker as time goes along, but because it is a gradual process they don’t know how weak they are until it is too late and they are having falls,” Hall said.

He recommends people stay active to keep the body in shape and head off the possibility of injuries caused by falling.

“Simple exercises where you’re doing mini squats, standing and shifting weight side to side, sitting down and standing up, heel raises, walking — any activity that keeps the legs strong will help,” Hall said. “Just because you come to therapy does not mean you have to stay here for weeks or months. We can tailor a program specific for every person.”

Hall said under most circumstances people living in Alabama must have a physical referral for physical therapy.

Hall also said a key to a successful physical therapy experience should involve a caregiver or family member.

“As people get older and start dealing with issues like Parkinson’s we will actually have the caregiver or family member come with that patient and have them watch the exercises,” he said. “A lot of times patients, as they get older, respond better in their own environment.” 

When an older person is injured from falling, the difficulties of daily living increase by 166%, heart problems increase 46% and depression is experienced 58% of the time, according to a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost three million Americans end up in emergency rooms every year due to falling. Of those, 800,000 people are admitted to the hospital usually with a broken hip or head injury.

One simple way to prevent falls is to make the home safe, according to AARP.

The organization recommendations include:

• Increase natural light by keeping blinds open

• Place electrical cords along walls

• Remove all area rugs

• Place items frequently used in an accessible area

• Arrange furniture to allow for easy passage

• Check outdoor walkways for loose bricks or cracks that could cause a fallAccording to the National Council on Aging, most falls can be prevented.

Some common factors beyond physical capacity that lead to a fall include:

• Vision: In the aging eye, less light reaches the retina — making contrasting edges, tripping hazards, and obstacles harder to see.

• Medications: Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness, dehydration or interactions with each other that can lead to a fall.

• Chronic conditions: More than 80% of older adults have at least one chronic condition like diabetes, stroke or arthritis. Often, these increase the risk of falling because they result in lost function, inactivity, depression, pain or multiple medications.